The role of formal structure in liking for popular music

J.J. Rolison, J. Edworthy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


The effect of restructuring the form of three unfamiliar pop/rock songs was investigated in two experiments. In the first experiment, listeners' judgements of the likely location of sections of novel popular songs were explored by requiring participants to place the eight sections (Intro - Verse 1 - Chorus 1 - Verse 2 - Chorus 2 - Bridge (solo) - Chorus 3 - Extro) of the songs into the locations they thought them most likely to occur within the song. Results revealed that participants were able to place the sections in approximately the right location with some accuracy, though they were unable to differentiate between choruses. In Experiment 2, three versions of each of the songs were presented in three different structures: intact (original form), medium restructured (the sections in a moderately changed order), and highly restructured (more severe restructuring). The results show that listeners' judgments of predictability and liking were largely uninfluenced by the restructuring of the songs, in line with findings for classical music. Moment-by-moment liking judgements of the songs demonstrated a change in liking judgements with repeated exposure, though the trend was downwards with repeated exposure rather than upwards. Detailed analysis of moment-by-moment judgements at the ends and beginnings of sections showed that listeners were able to respond quickly to intact songs, but not to restructured songs. The results suggest that concatenism prevails in listening to popular song at the expense of paying attention to larger structural features.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)269-284
Number of pages16
JournalMusic Perception
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 01 Feb 2012

Bibliographical note

Copyright 2012 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Music

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